Belgium weathered an incredible Canadian storm to win their opening game of the 2022 World Cup 1-0 on Wednesday night.
Playing their first World Cup game in 36 years, the CanMNT pushed and pressed their illustrious opponents right from the first whistle and after som, early pressure, earned a penalty for handball in the eighth minute.
Alphonso Davies stepped up to try and score Canada’s first-ever World Cup goal, but could only divert a weak effort straight at Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Canada didn’t let their heads go down, though, and continued to pile pressure on Belgium, forcing mistakes and creating multiple chances for the likes of Jonathan David and Tajon Buchanan.
However, Canada’s wasteful finishing came back to haunt them right on half-time when Michy Batshuayi got between a couple of defenders to meet an excellent Toby Alderweireld pass, before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
Canada ran out of steam somewhat after the break only offering brief moments of quality, with some half-time changes from Roberto Martinez helping steady the ship and see the Red Devils over the line.
Nevertheless, Canada have proved they’re here to be taken seriously at just their second World Cup, while also highlighting a number of weaknesses in the Belgian ranks.
GK: Thibaut Courtois – 9/10 – Was the reason Belgium escaped alive from this match, saving Davies’ penalty and coming up with a couple more huge interventions.
CB: Leander Dendoncker – 6/10 – Safe enough on the ball, struggled to cope with the Canadian counter-attacks.
CB: Toby Alderweireld – 7/10 – Had a few tough moments when Davies and David started running at him, but was excellent on the ball, especially with his assist for the goal.
CB: Jan Vertonghen – 5/10 – Wasteful with the ball and couldn’t keep up with the opposition.
RWB: Timothy Castagne – 4/10 – Looked mismatched trying to defend Alphonso Davies.
CM: Axel Witsel – 6/10 – Tidy with the ball but didn’t use it to any great effect.
CM: Youri Tielemans – 4/10 – The game largely passed him by. Tielemans was repeatedly a target of the Canadian press.
LWB: Yannick Carrasco – 5/10 – Was overworked on the left, with Canada repeatedly targeting his flank. Did the best he could before being brought off at half-time. Gave away the penalty.
CAM: Kevin De Bruyne – 3/10 – One of the worst performances you’re likely to ever see from De Bruyne. Woeful decision-making. Needs to improve quickly to give Belgium a chance at this World Cup.
CAM: Eden Hazard – 5/10 – Tried his best to take the game to Canada but couldn’t deal with their athleticism.
ST: Michy Batshuayi – 8/10 – Under a lot of pressure to perform in place of the injured Lukaku but always provided an outlet for Belgium. Took his goal well.
SUB: Thomas Meunier (46′ for Carrasco) – 6/10 – Helped steady things defensively.
SUB: Amadou Onana (46′ for Tielemans) – 7/10 – Made Belgium far more secure on the ball.
SUB: Leandro Trossard (62′ for Hazard) – 5/10 – Never got going.
SUB: Lois Openda (78′ for Batshuayi) – 5/10 – Didn’t adjust to the pace of the match.
Manager: Roberto Martinez – 7/10 – Got it totally wrong in the first half and was lucky to be ahead. But has to be given credit for the half-time chances, which killed Canada off.
GK: Milan Borjan – 6/10 – Could do nothing about the goal. Solid otherwise.
CB: Alistair Johnston – 7/10 – Quickly got over some early nerves to put in a blood and thunder performance.
CB: Steven Vitoria – 7/10 – Used his experience to cut out multiple Belgian advances. Very composed.
CB: Kamal Miller – 7/10 – Was in tears during Canada’s national anthem and brought that passion to the game. Almost lost himself at times, but came up with some vital challenges.
RWB: Richie Laryea – 8/10 – Was a menace down the right all game for Canada. Belgium couldn’t cope. Created four chances.
CM: Atiba Hutchinson – 7/10 – An incredible moment for the 39-year-old, making his World Cup debut with his 99th cap. Rose to the occasion with some ice-cold play on the ball.
CM: Stephen Eustaquio – 8/10 – A beautifully balanced performance from the Porto man, who was creative, destructive and composed in equal measure.
LWB: Alphonso Davies – 7/10 – Marked down for his awful penalty. Didn’t let that knock his confidence, though, with Davies constantly turning the Belgian defence inside-out. World-class talent.
RW: Tajon Buchanan – 7/10 – A really bright performance from the former New England Revolution man. Used his pace and skill to full effect and created a number of chances. Missed a couple of good ones himself, though.
ST: Jonathan David – 6/10 – A player of his quality should have come away from this game with at least one goal, if not more. Can’t be marked down too much, though, considering how much he worked the Belgium defenders.
LW: Junior Hoilett – 7/10 – Didn’t see a great deal of the ball but made it count by creating two chances from just four accurate passes. Worked hard when Belgium had it.
SUB: Cyle Larin (58′ for Hoilett) – 5/10 – Missed a decent chance with a free header.
SUB: Ismael Kone (58′ for Hutchinson) – 6/10 – Showed an impressive amount of composure considering his age. Easy to see why he’s attracting European interest.
SUB: Sam Adekugbe (74′ for Laryea) – 7/10 – Picked up where Laryea left off.
SUB: Liam Millar (81′ for Buchanan) – 5/10 – Tried to make things happen but never found his range.
SUB: Jonathan Osorio (81′ for Eustaquio) – 6/10 – Did fine but wasn’t given enough time to make a real difference.
Manager: John Herdman – 8/10 – Preyed on Belgium’s weaknesses with a well-organised and perfectly executed press. Deserved way more from this match but just ran out of ideas in the second half.